Left to right: IEBC Commissioner Dr Roselyn Akombe, Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba
The run-off election for Kenyan President is in chaos. Much is happening every day, but it is unclear, when I am in the midst of it all, what is significant and what is just “noise.”
The date of the run-off election has been set for October 17, 14 days before the 60 day constitutional limit, meaning that there is only 46 days from the ruling to the election. The cabinet secretary for education, a government appointee, asked that the election be put on October 17 so that it would not interfere with the national primary and secondary exams planned to begin later in October. The IEBC immediately agreed. The NASA opposition opposed this date, stating that they were not consulted and that it was the government itself rather than the IEBC which was making the decision. Clearly the early date was a disadvantage to NASA since it would give them less time to campaign. Since IEBC is going to be hard-pressed to conduct a credible election even in 60 days, it is questionable why they would agree to cut off 14 days for preparation.
Another problem is that the Supreme Court is taking 21 days to issue the details behind their reasons for voiding the election. Therefore the IEBC doesn’t know for sure what needs to be corrected and will have only 25 days after the announcement to take any remedial action for the shortcomings the court has indicated. Is this even possible?
NASA this week will file a court case against five of the top IEBC officials including Ezra Chiloba. NASA is also developing a list of over 1000 local election officials who “deliberately refused or failed to relay accurate results of the presidential election.” They plan on turning this over to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and if he fails to respond, NASA will take these people to court. They also plan on placing charges of election fraud against officials of a French company that supplied election equipment. I don’t know if this is reality or “noise”.
The chairman of the IEBC, Wafula Chebukati (by the way, a Quaker from Bungoma) has sent a leaked memo to Ezra Chiloba, the IEBC Chief Operating Office, asking him for explanations for twelve shortcomings from the election results indicating significant fraud in the tallying of the vote. I’ll leave out the details. Chiloba has responded that he will reply to the various issues that Chebukati raised. Four of the seven IEBC commissioners then disavowed Chebukati’s memo.
If the IEBC messed up the prior election, what changes in personnel and procedures need to happen to make the next election credible? Both NASA and Jubilee claim that the IEBC secretariat of 800 people is infiltrated by partisans of the opposing party. NASA wants Chiloba removed – while Jubilee wants him to continue. Chebukati announced a new management team for the second election which would have sidelined Chiloba, but four of the commissioners didn’t agree. The arguments go back and forth. In short the IEBC is in chaos. The IEBC is now on a retreat out of Nairobi to try to solve their issues and plan on how they can arrange for a creditable election.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta initially said that he would respect the court ruling, at his first campaign event after the ruling, he called the four judges of the Supreme Court who voted to void the election “crooks.” In particular he attacked Chief Justice Maraga. Moreover he then said that, after he won the election, he would “fix” (without any explanation of how he would do this) the Supreme Court and the IEBC. This implies that he would take away their independent status and make them answerable to the executive.
These outbursts immediately resulted in outrage from NASA, Kenyan civil society, and the international community. It will also cost Uhuru votes. Maraga is a Kisii, one of the battleground tribes. NASA immediately jumped on this outburst, in usual Kenyan fashion, to tell the Kisii that they must vote for Raila in order to protect their tribesman. Uhuru responded by saying he was only attacking an individual and not the Kisii as a whole, but that is not how it works here in Kenya.
Then hate speech has reared its usual self. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) says that it is investigating 278 cases of hate speech – probably only a small fraction of those that actually occurred. In one high profile case, a Kikuyu MP, Moses Kuria, in referring to Raila Odinga, remarked in his local Kikuyu language, “Who were the prisons built for? Wasn’t Mandela jailed and released? I will circumcise him.” [Remember that Kikuyu practice male circumcision, but Luo do not.] In addition he complained that the 100,000 people in Kiambu County and the 300,000 in the Kikuyu counties around Mt Kenya who did not vote for Uhuru – many but not all of these would be non-Kikuyu – should be discovered (aren’t people’s votes supposed to be secret?). In other words this is intimidation and a call for ethnic cleansing. According to a news report on his Facebook page, Kuria hurled insults at Raila and his family, “using obscene words that cannot be published”. Yesterday he was arrested by the police for questioning.
In a new development for Kenya, much like the Sanders campaign in the US, NASA is asking its supporters to donate (as little as 10 shillings equal to 10 US cents) to their campaign by sending funds through M-pesa (mobile money). The Kenyan election is extremely expensive for candidates, but candidate financing is all opaque since there are no discloser regulations at all. Therefore deep pockets that hope to benefit are the main campaign contributors. Jubilee has replied that people are just wasting their money since this appeal is just a Ponzi scheme (of which there are many in Kenya). I don’t know how much NASA will collect but it is a good tactic because anyone who has contributed to the election campaign will vote for Raila.
There is so much more that I could report on, but this is sufficient to indicate the problems and issues ahead. I myself would be hard pressed at this time to make any predictions on what might happen.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
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